The snooker circuit is back in China for the next week with the leading players in the world heading to take part in the Shanghai Masters, a tournament between the top 16 in the world ranking and eight stellar Chinese invitees.
Ronnie O’Sullivan ran off with the title here last year and he makes his first appearance of the season to attempt to defend his crown. It goes without saying that a top field will look to dispose him as champion.
2018 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
2017 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
2016 – Ding Junhui
2015 – Kyren Wilson
2014 – Stuart Bingham
2013 – Ding Junhui
2012 – John Higgins
2011 – Mark Selby
2010 – Ali Carter
2009 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
Just the 24 men are invited to take part in the competition these days. The top 16 players in the world are here as well as eight of the best Chinese players. The top eight go straight through to the last 16 while those ranked 9-16 will play a Chinese wildcard to meet one of the top eight in that round of 16 clash. The first and second rounds and the quarter finals are the best-of-11 frames with the semi-finals moving up to the best-of-19 frames and then it will be a race to 11 to determine the champion on Sunday.
Ronnie O’Sullivan is the number one seed this week as the defending champion and he will expect to go fairly deep in this tournament. The three other seeds in this half are John Higgins, Neil Robertson and the former champion Kyren Wilson who seems to like it in this event. This is actually a tough half of the draw because it has the two best Chinese wildcards in it as well as Ding Junhui. Beaten finalist last year Barry Hawkins, former winner Ali Carter, Six Red finalist Stephen Maguire, Riga winner Yan Bingtao and Xiao Guodong are some of the players in this part of the draw
It sounds silly to say that the weaker looking half of the two is the bottom one when you think that it contains the last three men to win the world title in Judd Trump, Mark Williams and Mark Selby, but I still think that is the case. Mark Allen is the other top eight ranked player in it so while it might be weaker it is certainly competitive. That is even more the case when you think it has International Championship runner-up Shaun Murphy, World Championship semi-finalist Dave Gilbert and Stuart Bingham in it. Liang Wenbo and Lu Haotian will be eyeing up a few scalps as well.
I’ll take a player in both halves this week with my main bet coming in the bottom half. It doesn’t always pay to take on Judd Trump these days but Mark Selby looked to be coming into a bit of form in the International Championship prior to losing to the aforementioned Trump in the semi-final and his record in China tells me he shouldn’t be a 10/1 shot to win the tournament. He has a blinding record in Asia and the longer format should bring out the best in his game once again. Selby has a quarter which he should be able to negotiate and if he does that he could take some stopping over the two-session stuff. At 10/1 I’ll take the former world number one.
Stephen Maguire could run into Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter final and that will obviously be a tough hurdle to overcome but despite that I can’t be having him as a 100/1 shot this week. That is a little insulting, especially when he oiled up his cue arm nicely at the Six Red tournament last week where he almost won the title before losing to John Higgins in the final. Maguire is back in the top 16 and his reward for that is a place in tournaments like this. He doesn’t have a whole lot to lose here and so at the price I have to have a nibble to see what he offers.
Back M.Selby to win Shanghai Masters (e/w) for a 2/10 stake at 11.00 with Coral (1/2 1-2)
Back S.Maguire to win Shanghai Masters (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with BetVictor (1/2 1-2)